Attorney General Schwalb Joins Bipartisan Coalition in Opposing 3M's Proposed PFAS Settlement

AGs Representing More Than Half of U.S. Population Argue that Settlement Must Ensure that Companies Bear Full Responsibility for the Damage they Caused

WASHINGTON, DC – Attorney General Brian L. Schwalb today joined a bipartisan coalition of 22 Attorneys General in opposing a proposed class action settlement that fails to adequately hold the 3M Company (3M) accountable for contaminating the nation’s drinking water supply. Under the proposed settlement, water providers would withdraw the hundreds of lawsuits they have filed against 3M over its use of per- and polyfluoroalkyl substances — commonly referred to as “PFAS” or toxic “forever chemicals” — in a wide range of consumer products and firefighting foams. PFAS are stable in the environment, resistant to degradation, persistent in soil, and known to leach into groundwater.

“District of Columbia residents and people across the country will be forced to deal with the adverse effects of “forever chemicals” for years to come, and their full impact on the environment and our natural resources is still unknown,” said AG Schwalb. “This settlement agreement contains unacceptable provisions that could force water utility companies and taxpayers, not the companies at fault, to foot the bill for cleanup efforts and would protect 3M and other chemical companies from future lawsuits. Any agreement must ensure that these polluters – who knowingly contaminated our precious natural resources with toxic PFAS chemicals – are responsible, financially and otherwise, for the damage they caused.”

The proposed settlement would apply to nearly every public water provider in the United States, even those that have not sued, and even those that have yet to test for the presence of PFAS in their water. In return for waiving their claims, 3M proposes to pay $10.5 to $12.5 billion to water providers, an amount that is worth far less because of provisions that could ultimately force water providers to reimburse 3M for many costs.

In the brief filed with the U.S. District Court for the District of South Carolina, the coalition warns that:

  • Individual water providers would be bound by the proposed settlement—even if they have not yet tested for PFAS or sued 3M—unless they proactively opt out. Troublingly, they would have to make opt-out decisions without knowing how much they would actually receive and, in many cases, before knowing the extent of contamination in their water supplies and the costs of remediating it.
  • The proposed settlement contains an indemnification clause, which shifts liability from 3M to water suppliers bound by the settlement. For example, if a cancer cluster develops in a PFAS-impacted community and the victims sue 3M, 3M would likely be able to seek compensation from the community’s public water supplier for any amount it owed to the victims. As such, the proposed settlement is worth far less than the advertised $10.5 billion to $12.5 billion.

To raise these concerns with 3M's proposed settlement with water providers, the states filed a motion to intervene in the pending multi-district litigation involving water providers.

A copy of the motion to intervene is available here and of the opposition here.

Joining Attorney General Schwalb in opposing the proposed settlement are the attorneys general of Arizona, California, Colorado, Connecticut, Hawaii, Maine, Maryland, Massachusetts, Minnesota, New Hampshire, New Jersey, New Mexico, New York, Pennsylvania, Rhode Island, Tennessee, Texas, Vermont, Wisconsin, as well as the Commonwealth of the Northern Mariana Islands, and the Commonwealth of Puerto Rico.

Earlier this month, the Office of the Attorney General (OAG) filed a lawsuit against over 25 chemical companies, including 3M and DuPont, for manufacturing, marketing, distributing, and selling products containing dangerous PFAS chemicals, which now pollute the District’s natural resources. The lawsuit was filed on behalf of the District and DC Water.

Click here for information on EPA standards regarding PFAS and DC guidance related to drinking water.

Assistant Attorney General Wesley Rosenfeld and Special Assistant Attorney General Lauren Cullum are representing the District in this matter. The District is also represented by outside counsel, including the firms Edelson, Miner Barnhill & Galland, and Bicky Corman Law.

OAG’s Efforts to Protect the Environment
Fighting for environmental justice and environmental protection is a priority of OAG, particularly in light of the historical disparate impact environmental contamination has had on the District’s Black and brown residents. Among other things, OAG works closely with the Department of Energy and Environment (DOEE) to coordinate and implement Anacostia River cleanup efforts and investigate and assess damages to the District’s natural resources. Since 2014, OAG has recovered over $60 million to promote environmental justice in the District through legal action.

Read more about OAG’s efforts to protect the environment and fight for environmental justice.